Sensory gym: A safe space for children with special needs

Sensory gym A safe space for children with special needs
The sensory gym, an area for active play, stimulates all the senses of children. (Photos: Handouts from the Hyatt Regency Hotel)
Taking your children on vacation can be stressful. This is especially true for families of children with autism, as the change in routine may be unsettling and result in the child exhibiting challenging behaviors. اضافة اعلان

According to the World Health Organization, autism affects one in every 100 children. More formally known as autism spectrum disorder, autism is an umbrella term used to describe a group of neurodevelopmental disorders. In Jordan, there are an estimated 10,000 people on the autism spectrum.

Parents may often worry that vacation destinations are unfit or unaccommodating for children with autism; now a new initiative in Aqaba aims to ensure that families with such children can have a good time.

The first of its kind in the Middle East, Camp Hyatt — the sensory children’s gym at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Ayla, Aqaba — offers the care autistic children and their parents deserve, as well as opportunities for enjoyment and skill development.

The sensory gym, an area for active play, stimulates all the senses of children. It is a structured environment which includes sensory equipment designed to provide proprioceptive and vestibular sensory input.

Camp Hyatt is more than just a playroom, especially for children with special needs. Its goal is to help child development across all domains: physical, cognitive, sensory, and communication skills.

It also gives individuals with autism and other sensory needs access to the equipment they need for sensory regulation in a non-threatening environment. This helps them feel calmer, more focused, and can minimize tantrums and meltdowns. In addition to providing health and fitness benefits, sensory gyms also enhance a child’s self-esteem and social skills.

The resort’s first sensory gym, which is housed in the children’s hall, is loaded with equipment and games with sound technology, colors, and simple designs for children with special needs. It was created by a team of experts and specialists in collaboration with MENA Autism and Iris Solutions.

The gym can hold up to five children in one loft, with each child or two with an expert and an assistant; there is the potential to increase capacity with the addition of more staff and specialists. Each staff member has completed thorough training, and a search for specialists in children with severe autism is currently under way.

The establishment of Camp Hyatt was inspired by the company’s belief in the importance of offering a suitable atmosphere for all families, enabling those with autistic children to enjoy a holiday.

The sensory gym was created and furnished with children safety standards in mind, and based on skill and sensory development criteria. The team of seasoned professionals who have received training in gym amenities and sensory activities monitor the operation of the rooms.

In an interview with Jordan News, the general manager of Hyatt Regency Aqaba Resort, Jean-Francois Durand, said that Hyatt Regency discussed with MENA Autism what can be done for guests to maximize their travel experience. To enable visitors to relax, they decided to have a place for children to play. This allows parents to unwind at a new destination as opposed to staying at home, missing out on travel opportunities, or feeling unaccepted or uncomfortable, he said.

“As a result of the conversation, we approached the company Iris, which was suggested to us, in order to create the additional equipment that is being installed in the gym, to provide autistic children with the opportunity to feel at ease or be among the people who are participating in a specific set of activities. Therefore, it took more than a year to come up with everything and to actually get our owners, sponsors, and stakeholders to all come together,” Durand said.

There are many thoughtfully chosen instruments accessible at Camp Hyatt, like the sensoryREADY tool, a smart system that controls a child’s environment by modifying surrounding light, music, noises, and pictures, all to help unlock inspiration within them and bring their imagination to life.

There are also fiber optics and an infinity mirror, which engage touch and sight, and enhance concentration, perception, and imagination.

The sound and color system is a panel that allows users to adjust volume and sound levels, as well as the colors that it creates. Colors can be changed via a microphone, a communicative and motor activity that engages the children’s senses and muscles.

On the floor are sensory tiles that give children a unique sensory experience. Vividly colored tiles are used as passageways in rooms and provide tactile, visual, and kinesthetic stimulation. They also soothe erratic movement in children by encouraging engagement like jumping, dancing, and strolling across their surfaces.

There are also sensory pillows that consist of many textures and activities to build fine motor skills, develop imagination, and provide a range of visual, tactile, and auditory sensory experiences. The gym offers many activities that are designed according to the needs and age of the children.

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